TRADEOFF BETWEEN ANIMAL WELFARE AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF BEEF PRODUCTION: AN ANALYSIS OF PRESENTATION EFFECTS ON CONSUMER CHOICE

2020-07-29T17:08:04Z (GMT) by Jacob S Schmiess
This study uses a choice experiment to investigate consumer preference for beef when faced with a tradeoff between increased animal welfare and lower levels of environmental impact. Results were obtained via an online survey consisting of 1,559 participants from the U.S. in Summer 2019. Participants were shown one of three presentation designs, as well as one of three information treatments (control, pro-environment, and pro-animal welfare). Consumers were shown to have significantly higher WTP for animal welfare attributes than environmentally friendly characteristics.
\par Participants which were shown the purely informational design regarded only price and whether the beef was grassfed and free of added growth hormones when choosing. The second presentation used sizing and coloring to convey environmental impact, producing higher WTP for environmental attributes and slightly lower WTP for animal welfare qualities. Participants in the third design were shown packages of ground beef with labels in place of the attribute levels. These participants had the least variance between attribute WTP and had 1.5-2 times greater WTP for a meat option than the other presentation treatments.
\par Pro-animal welfare information had the highest effect within the informational design, which had the highest overall WTP for animal welfare attributes. The visual presentation was influenced most heavily by the pro-environment information. Information treatments had no effect on the labels presentation.
\par While improvements in farm animal welfare might coincide with environmental improvements, the two issues can often come into conflict, particularly when it comes to greater intensification of production systems. This study aims to determine consumer preferences for ground beef when faced with a tradeoff between increased animal welfare and lower levels of environmental impact. A discrete choice experiment was conducted with over 1,500 U.S. consumers in mid-2019. Because of the high degree of consumer unfamiliarity likely associated with animal welfare and environmental impacts of beef production, we sought to determine the sensitivity of results by systematically varying how attributes were presented (textually, visually, or via labels) and what information was available to respondents (control, pro-environment, or pro-animal welfare). If shown only textual attribute information, consumers were unresponsive to environmental impacts such as land use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions; these issues were more impactful when communicated visually or via labels. Using pictures of ground beef with labels significantly increased the odds one of the meat options was chosen relative to treatments that presented choices in tabular form. Avoidance of the use of added growth hormones was one of the preferable seven attributes studied. Providing pro-environment or pro-animal welfare information had small, but statistically significant impacts on consumer choice. Overall, results suggest consumers are willing to trade environment for animal welfare, but the extent of this tradeoff strongly depends on how the attributes are presented.